Spring is noted for two things. First, delicate and delicious greens. And secondly, the interminable wait for summer. June is here, and the temperature spikes for a day or two into the 80s, then drops again to the 60s. Rain falls, and then, suddenly, there will be sun and strawberries.
Spring is noted for two things. First, delicate and delicious greens. And secondly, the interminable wait for summer.
June is here, and the temperature spikes for a day or two into the 80s, then drops again to the 60s. Rain falls, and then, suddenly, there will be sun and strawberries.
Meanwhile, cooks make the best of all this green abundance. Green beans are steamed and buttered, or blessed with oil and vinegar for salad. Those get old fast, so cooks keep innovating. The beans get roasted in the oven until they achieve the texture of french fries. Some cooks add garlic. I think they stand up on their own with just a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar and coarse sea salt. You can even skip the vinegar but not the salt that makes them even crunchier. I pair them with burgers grilled between the raindrops.
Then there’s the broccoli rabe. Not the familiar big, brawny broccoli but another good-for-you green. The Italians boil it right in the pot with pasta, then toss with oil and other flavorings. The pasta is called orecchiete, little ears, because of its shape, but it’s not so easy to find outside of a market.
So instead, a lot of cooks use small tubular pasta. My favorite is mezze rigatoni, a half-size version of the original rigatoni. It’s closer to the ear-shaped pasta without the ho-hum of elbow pasta. I also like to add a little heat in the form of red pepper flakes and some sweet with golden raisins. But you can try the newest foodie favorite instead.
One more recipe completes the spring hat trick. Baby spinach — no stemming like the mature leaves — sauteed until it barely wilts, and sweetened with dried, not fresh, figs or dates.
ROASTED GREEN BEANS
These beans turn out crunchy and as addictive as french fries. The additional crunch of coarse-grained sea salt adds to the fun.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound fresh whole green beans, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Coarse sea salt, to taste
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread green beans on the sheet pan in approximately a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with pepper.
2. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, opening the oven to stir the beans once or twice. The beans should be still crisp and slightly charred when done.
3. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with coarse-grained sea salt and toss gently. Makes 6 servings.
PASTA WITH BROCCOLI RABE
The optional chopped anchovy fillets melt into the dish adding a briny, salty flavor. Buy the ones in the jars, not the tins, as they are not spiny. Or skip them, the garlic and the red pepper flakes completely. Chop some bacon and cook it in their place.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 pound broccoli rabe, stem ends trimmed, and coarsely chopped
3/4 pound pasta
4 anchovy fillets, drained and finely chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs; cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
2. Soak the raisins in a small bowl of lukewarm water to cover for 15 minutes. Drain; set aside.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the salt, broccoli rabe and pasta. Cook the mixture until pasta is still slightly chewy, al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain.
4. While the broccoli rabe cooks, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet on medium low heat. Add the anchovies, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute, stirring, until the anchovies begin to disintegrate.
5. Add the drained broccoli rabe, pasta and raisins to the skillet, tossing gently. Top with the toasted breadcrumbs to serve. Makes 6 servings.
BABY SPINACH WITH GARLIC AND FIGS
The garlic here is meant to flavor the oil, not stay in the finished dish.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup finely chopped dried figs
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 pound baby spinach, rinsed and dried
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons agave honey
Warm the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook, stirring, until lightly golden, about 30 seconds. Discard. Add the figs and chicken stock to the skillet. Cook until stock is reduced to about 1/3 of the volume, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the spinach. Cook, stirring, until it wilts but still has some shape, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the honey just before serving hot. Makes 4 servings.
For more recipes and tips, follow @Kitchencall on Twitter. Follow the Kitchen Call blog on LindABCooks@wordpress